The Panchatantra – Story 54


Devasarma was a poor Brahmin. After long years of childlessness, his wife gave birth to the much-longed- for male child. Both husband and wife went into raptures over the baby. Well has it been said, ‘A son, even though destined to be wicked, ill-behaved, ugly, foolish and vicious, delights the hearts of his parents. People say that sandal paste is cool, but the touch of the baby’s limbs is cooler for, men will, for the sake of a son, overlook the claims of a brother, father and protector.’ 

There was in that house a mongoose brought up by the family in days of childlessness. It used to roam freely in the house. The Brahmin and his wife, who had loved it before, began to fear some harm or other from it to the newborn child. This fear had. no other basis except the excess of their love for their son. On the tenth day after the delivery, the Brahmin’s wife went to the river to take her ceremonial bath of purification. Before going, she called her husband and said, ‘Dearest, I am going to take my bath. Please watch our baby carefully,’ When she had gone some minutes, a maid came from the queen and said to the Brahmin, ‘ If you come, you will get plenty of grain and eatables besides a round sum in cash’. The Brahmin’s avarice was roused and he went immediately, leaving the mongoose in charge of the house and the baby. 

Shortly after he left, a big serpent came from it’s hole in the wall and rushed towards the child. Moved by its traditional enmity, the mongoose attacked the snake, and, after a terrible fight, killed it and cut it to pieces Soon afterwards, it saw the Brahmin returning. Rejoicing in its deed of valour, it ran to meet him with its blood-sprinkled face and teeth stained with blood. The Brahmin seeing the blood on the animal’s face and not pausing to consider further, thought, ‘This wretch has killed and eaten my darling son Enraged beyond measure, he gave a terrific blow to the mongoose with his stick and killed it. Entering the house, he found the child sleeping soundly and the huge serpent lying in pieces. He said to himself ‘Oh, what a senseless act have I done ! Woe unto me! I have killed the savior of my child’ and rolled on the ground in grief beating his breast and head.

His wife came shortly afterwards and asked him, ‘What is all this?’. He related the whole story. She said, ‘Prompted by greed, you disregarded my direction never to leave the child. The fruit of that is the pitiful death of this faithful beast which saved our child. Well have the wise men said, “One should not be too greedy though a little greed will not be out of place. A man overtaken by excessive greed got a dreadful wheel on his head churning his blood !’. The Brahmin asked ‘What is that story?’. His wife then related the story of “Too Much Greed leads To The Wheel“. Afterwards, she took the poor dead mongoose in her arms and wept hot tears of grief. 

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